This summer, Audible gave Neil Gaiman’s seminal comic The Sandman the audio drama treatment with a full-cast, sound-designed adaptation. The first season of chapters hinted at hopes for more, and at this year’s New York Comic Con panel, fans received confirmation that the adaptation will continue.
Moderated by Kevin Smith, “The Sound of The Sandman with Neil Gaiman and Friends” included, of course, Neil Gaiman, and his purported friends: lead actor James McAvoy, director/producer Dirk Maggs (best known for his work on the 2003 Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy audio drama series), and composer James Hannigan.
When asked about their favorite moments to adapt, Maggs, whose career in audio drama is historic and prolific, said, simply, “all of it.” Gaiman reminded viewers, “This [first installment] is about one sixth of what we’re going to make.”
During the panel, Maggs reminisced about his first audio project, an adaptation of Superman. The project kicked off his love of working in audio, despite the BBC studio’s constraints. “BBC studios were not made for superheroes,” Maggs explained. “They were made for polite cups of tea.” Maggs and Gaiman have worked together closely for years, starting with their 2013 BBC adaptation of Gaiman’s novel Neverwhere. “Creating worlds without pictures — and yet the pictures come in your mind — it became sort of a desperate addiction for me.” Maggs joked that by meeting Gaiman, working on projects like the adaptation of Gaiman’s Neverwhere, “ruined his life.”
Audible’s The Sandman concluded with the episode “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” taken directly from issue #19 of Sandman (though its position in the adaptation’s chronology was flipped with issue #20, “Façade”). In theory, this means the adaptation could continue for about two more seasons to complete the original comic’s 75-issue original run, given the success of each chunk of adaptation.
Maggs said “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was his favorite chapter to adapt. To make sure they had enough audio of Shakespeare’s play to continue in the background of the episode, they “wound up recording about two-thirds of the whole play.” Maggs joked that somewhere in the archives, there’s a Sandman Players version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, save for the end.
Gaiman commented that what he loves about the adaptation is how it takes the story of the comics and makes them more accessible. “People who are visually impaired, or what I’ll call comics impaired — people whose brains don’t get comics — don’t get Sandman . . . we were making this thing that, yes, people who love audiobooks will get, but also the people who are visually impaired will be able to get Sandman.”
Praise was given by the entire panel for James McAvoy and Kat Dennings for their performances of Morpheus and Death, respectively. Composer James Hannigan cited the Death-heavy chapter “The Sound of Her Wings” as his favorite to compose for: “The warmth of Death was the most enjoyable thing for me — coming up with the bittersweet underscore.” McAvoy lauded Denning’s sense of conveying Death with a quiet finality, a softness that helped root the character in the actual concept of death.
Meanwhile, Gaiman spoke about the impact listening to McAvoy’s performance as Morpheus. Gaiman explained that McAvoy’s audio was the last to be recorded, and that they cycled through several actors — including, for a time, himself — to portray Morpheus. When Maggs started sending Gaiman unfinished demos of the audio with McAvoy’s audio, Gaiman said, “The lights were off. James came in, was Morpheus, and the lights turned on.”
Audible has yet to announce a release date for the next season of The Sandman, but it sounds like fans will eventually be able to listen to the comics start to finish, whether they’re visually impaired, “comics impaired,” or just a fan excited to relive that dreamy magic.